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OneZero
The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

Gig Economy

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General Intelligence

A new paper sheds light on the industry’s troubling relationship with the global gig economy

OneZero’s General Intelligence is a roundup of the most important artificial intelligence and facial recognition news of the week.

Modern artificial intelligence relies on algorithms processing millions of examples or images or text. A picture of a bird in an A.I. dataset would be manually tagged “bird” so that the algorithm associated aspects of that image with the category “bird.”

The process of tagging this data, by hand, scaled to the millions, is time-consuming and mind-numbingly monotonous.

Much of this work is done outside the United States and other Western countries and exploits workers from around the world, according to…


The company’s $62 million FTC settlement shows ‘corporate crime pays’

One of the world’s richest companies was accused of systematically shortchanging some of its lowest-paid, most precarious workers. It got sued by the U.S. government. It eventually agreed to pay back the money it had pocketed. And it came out billions richer in the end.

That’s the ugly bottom line of Tuesday’s news that Amazon has agreed to pay $62 million to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to settle charges that it essentially pocketed customer tips intended for contracted Amazon Flex drivers — conduct that FTC commissioners called “outrageous.” The money represents the amount it diverted from those drivers, and…


This year, the plight of gig drivers went mainstream

In early March, a sick man tumbled into the car of a San Francisco Uber driver, asking to be taken to the nearest hospital. “I think I’ve got Covid-19,” the passenger said before coughing up blood in the back seat. It wasn’t long before the driver became ill himself, he told OneZero in March. He was tested for the coronavirus, and doctors prescribed a rescue inhaler along with instructions to self-quarantine. But as he awaited the results, the driver worried over days of lost income and how to make ends meet.

Throughout the shutdown, thousands of Uber drivers and other…


Grocery delivery app Dumpling attracts couriers with the promise of full autonomy. Some drivers say it’s not following through.

When Louise Saler-Reinier started making enough to pay her bills by delivering groceries, she was thrilled. She had previously worked as an Instacart shopper in and around Chicago but had grown frustrated with low wages and customers who pulled their tips just after their groceries were delivered. Then she discovered Dumpling, a grocery delivery app founded in 2017 as an ethical alternative to gig economy stalwarts.

On Dumpling, couriers set their own rates, shop at whichever stores they want, and develop relationships with customers who book them specifically. For a monthly fee or $5 per transaction, Dumpling provides them with…


By now it’s a familiar story: Uber enters a new market, enticing drivers with big promises and relatively high pay. Drivers base their decisions — like whether to buy a car that meets Uber’s standards — on these initial terms. Then, as more drivers flood the platform, Uber drops rates, in many cases leaving the drivers saddled with debt and no way to pay it off.

In a new report based on interviews with more than 80 current and former Uber drivers, NBC News zooms in on how this pattern played out in Kenya, where Uber cut prices by about…


As Americans enter month eight of the coronavirus pandemic, drivers for companies like DoorDash and Uber are bearing the burden of stay-at-home orders and a crumbling job market.

With the economy continuing to stumble, people are turning to the gig economy to stave off unemployment. Meanwhile, demand for delivery services is skyrocketing. These trends, the New York Times reports, have created a legion of independent contractors who are unprotected and vulnerable as they perform frontline work.

As New York Times reporter Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura writes, DoorDash and Uber drivers in New York City are forced to navigate unpredictable pay, a…


Prop 22 was only the beginning

Earlier this month, a confident Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of Uber, told investors that Proposition 22 was only the beginning. The contentious ballot measure, which was voted into law by millions of Californians this month, allows Uber and Lyft to subvert a new state labor law that required them to reclassify drivers as employees. On a November 5 earnings call, Khosrowshahi said that going forward, “You’ll see us more loudly advocating for… laws like Prop 22.”

Proposition 22 was a response to Assembly Bill 5, which gave gig economy workers in California protections such as health benefits, paid sick leave…


Uber Freight says its app offers drivers more transparency and consistent earnings, but some truckers are worried it won’t help them for the long haul

In the summer of 2019, Richard Hernandez, an Arkansas truck driver, took what seemed like a straightforward job: Move 40,000 pounds of peanuts from the Planters factory in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to the Sam’s Club Distribution Center in Searcy, Arkansas, for $680. He found the job through Uber, which since 2017 has been in the trucking business. There was just one problem: When he arrived at Planters, he learned that the load weighed 45,000 pounds, not 40,000. The extra 5,000 pounds would impact his profit — independent truckers’ “freight rate,” or how much they’re paid per mile, typically increases with…


A cheat sheet for your doomscrolling

A cab driver helping a passenger load his luggage at LAX.
A cab driver helping a passenger load his luggage at LAX.

Proposition 22 passed in California on Tuesday. Uber, Lyft, and other gig economy companies spent more than $200 million on the ballot measure, which will allow them to classify drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.

Here’s what has changed:

  • Gig economy workers in California will be classified as independent contractors. In October, a California court ordered Uber and Lyft to hire their workers as employees under a new state labor law. The ballot measure that passed Tuesday allows Uber and Lyft to continue classifying drivers as independent contractors regardless.
  • Gig economy workers will get some benefits. Though meager compared…


Proposition 22 would officially make gig economy workers freelancers

Today California votes on Proposition 22, the controversial ballot initiative that seeks to grant companies like Uber and Lyft an exception to a California law that makes their workers employees. Roughly $202 million has been poured into the initiative, with companies resorting to strategies from sending deceptive mailers to printing “Yes 22” on delivery bags.

And there’s a reason that everyone is so amped up about it: Gig economy business models depend on classifying workers as independent contractors, who have no labor protections such as a minimum wage, paid breaks, or the right to unionize — though the initiative would…

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